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Cheika praises early bird Waratahs

By Steve Jancetic,

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    They weren’t due back at training until next week, but the Waratahs’ national team contingent braved a sweltering Sydney morning to display their commitment to turning the struggling Super Rugby franchise around.

    The Michael Cheika era was in full swing at Centennial Park on Monday, the new coach casting a watchful eye as his crop of stars took part in a torturous series of running drills.

    There they were, Berrick Barnes, Benn Robinson and Drew Mitchell amongst them, sweating it out when they could have just as easily been enjoying a day at the beach.

    Cheika calls them the “chasing pack”, with the “lead group” containing the likes of young gun Bernard Foley and AFL convert Israel Folau having already gone through the gruelling pre-season program.

    Despite coming back of their own volition a week ahead of schedule, there were no favours afforded the group – which was missing only Adam Ashley-Cooper, Sekope Kepu, Wycliff Palu and Tatafu Polota-Nau of the franchise’s European tourists.

    “I didn’t speak to any of them, they just wanted to (come back)”, Cheika said.

    “It shows the respect for their teammates and that is the most important thing in this game.

    “The players have been really open to a different way of working.

    “These sessions, a lot of the education’s done on the run, on the field, that puts pressure to learn.

    “There’s obviously a whole new game shape that they’re playing, there’s a lot of new things … they want to get better, you can see that.”

    Said Mitchell of the early return: “It was an individual decision.

    “I had a fair bit of time off last year through my ankle and that sort of stuff – in terms of conditioning I’m probably a little bit behind most guys so it was important for me to get back.”

    Mitchell’s eagerness may also have something to do with the competition for places ahead of the Super Rugby season opener on February 23.

    While admitting the Test stars had some credit to burn, Cheika is desperate to create competition for places.

    The outside backs are particularly deep, with the likes of Australian representatives Lachie Turner, Mitchell and Ashley-Cooper facing heat from Tom Kingston, Peter Betham and Folau.

    “You just make them compete against each other – that’s it,” Cheika said.

    “Everyone’s really clear with the criteria for judgement which we have.

    “The idea is to build a squad of depth … if you want to try to be the best team you’ve got to have that.”

    Cheika is also casting his eye over potential captains.

    Incumbent Robinson – who inherited the role as a result of former skipper Rocky Elsom’s injury ruined 2012 season – has already stated his desire to retain the captaincy.

    “You’ve got to see who wants it the most,” Cheika said of the captaincy.

    “The leadership’s earned, it’s not a given.

    “A lot of the guys are back and running around now – we’ll see who wants to earn the respect to be the boss.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (3)

    • January 8th 2013 @ 4:59am
      Billy Bob said | January 8th 2013 @ 4:59am | ! Report

      A general observation about this pre-season is that the aust conference seems to have some real depth in most positions now. Six, eight, ten, twelve and thirteen being the possible exceptions, though there are many contenders for top spot in these positions too.
      This has been the most encouraging preseason we have had for the Tahs (and the conference) for a long time.

    • January 8th 2013 @ 10:43am
      daniel said | January 8th 2013 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      There hasnt been a year gone past that they haven’t talked themselves up. Its all talk until they get on the field. With the noises coming out of the waratahs you would think they are the only ones training. Ive been sucked in before by NSW talk we need wins hopefully cheka does what he says he will do with thier game play. My son is growing up and I want to take him to the games but will wait and see because I am not taking him to games where the home crowd boos the home team how do you explain that to a 7 year old.

      • January 8th 2013 @ 11:49pm
        Gatesy said | January 8th 2013 @ 11:49pm | ! Report

        Take him anyway and let him enjoy the colour and movement – the first time he gets an autograph all will be forgiven!!

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